Airbnb might not be hurting the hotel industry after all

Ever since Airbnb came on the scene, the hotel industry has been worried the home-sharing company could hurt the hospitality and real estate industries.

It turns out that at least some of those concerns might be unfounded.

Data research firm STR took a look at Airbnb data alongside hotel data in 13 US and international markets. STR compared Airbnb to the biggest hotel chains in the world, like Marriott and Starwood (which are planning to merge), Hilton, Intercontinental Hotels Group, and more.

The data found that Airbnb has more than double the number of listings worldwide than Marriott/Starwood and Hilton combined, but it’s not actually replacing hotels.

Comparing Airbnb and hotels in the first place is “apples to oranges,” as STR senior research analyst Jessica Haywood notes in her breakdown of the data. Travellers who choose to stay in an Airbnb versus a hotel are often looking for an entirely different type of experience. They want to interact with hosts, want to be immersed in the local culture, or simply can’t afford to stay in a hotel, so will only travel if they have free or very cheap accommodations.

Beyond that, Airbnb offers accommodations that hotels don’t, like shared spaces or more whimsical places like tree houses and tents. Haywood notes that those kinds of atypical lodgings may have skewed her findings. Plus, the data was scraped, which means it was pulled from advertised listings on Airbnb’s website.

Still, hotels crushed Airbnb in terms of occupancy in every market measured in the study.

Hotel occupancy was still significantly higher in major markets like Los Angeles and San Francisco — Airbnb’s home town — and the gap was even larger in international cities like Mexico City and London. Haywood estimates that in US cities, Airbnb is picking up the slack when hotels are full. Hotels also saw higher growth than Airbnb in nearly every US city.

While Airbnb may certainly be stealing a small portion of hotel guests, that portion isn’t nearly enough to unseat traditional lodgings. And while the hotel industry has other qualms with Airbnb — many believe Airbnb is contributing to gentrification and impacting housing costs — there’s no reason to think Airbnb will put hotels out of business anytime soon.

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